MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Since returning to Camp Lejeune from Operation Iraqi Freedom last year, San Diego native Lt. Col. James E. Reilly III, has presented the Bronze Star to Marines under his command for their courageous actions.
So, it was no surprise to many who serve with the commanding officer of 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company, II Marine Expeditionary Force, when he was awarded the Bronze Star with a combat ‘V’ device for his actions during OIF in an award ceremony here Jan. 9.
Reilly took time to thank and praise everyone involved who contributed to this effort.
“I am humbled and honored by the recognition,” said Reilly after receiving the award.
“I could not have done the things I had to do without being surrounded by the Marines of 2nd Force Reconnaissance,” he continued. “I received my energy from the Marines and Sailors around me.”
At the battle of An Nasiriyah during the early morning hours of March 23 last year, Reilly led his forward command element and two platoons from 2nd Force Reconnaissance into a “hasty route recon behind enemy lines,” according to the summary action report.
It was after evading and observing the enemy within An Nasiriyah for some time, that the enemy “initiated a coordinated, but pre-mature ambush,” the report read.
Upon receiving intense fire from an enemy armed with AK-47 rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, Reilly and his men sprung into “well-rehearsed immediate action drills,” it continued.
“For the chaotic situation we encountered, everyone did their job superbly,” said Reilly.
His citation read that, “Reilly exposed himself to enemy fire by dismounting his vehicle and expertly engaging Iraqi forces, killing three enemy soldiers.”
According to Reilly, one tense moment came after disengaging the enemy and retracing the route back.
“We disengaged, and went back down the same route when we came upon a hastily built berm right in the middle of the road,” said Reilly.
It seemed as if the enemy was trying to set up for an ambush, he said, but that proved not to be the case.
Three days later, on March 26, with an impending attack by massing paramilitary forces, Reilly coordinated a hasty defense alongside other Marine units from Task Force Tarawa. Under his leadership the coordination and execution of these forces reduced the potential of friendly fire from occurring, the summary of action report stated.
Reilly also gave credit to the leadership of Task Force Tarawa for allowing greater flexibility to his combat force on the battlefield.
“The men were a highly disciplined, very motivated and close knit unit and Task Force Tarawa entrusted us to go out and get the job done,” Reilly said.
Other acts attributed to his command and battlefield performance were personally coordinating the evacuation of 32 wounded Marines through hostile terrain and coordinating the capture of two Ba’athist officials who were shooting civilians.
Reilly personally emphasized the important job of the Marines and Sailors who evacuated the wounded.
“When called upon for volunteers to go out and recover our wounded, the Marines I served with did so without hesitation,” explained Reilly.
The captured Ba’athists later admitted to “repeated abuses of an American prisoners of war held at the An Nasiriyah hospital,” the summary of action read.
That POW was Army Private Jessica Lynch, whose rescue was partially attributed to combat actions conducted by 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company under Reilly’s command.
“(Reilly) helped coordinate the forces rescuing Jessica Lynch,” said Brig. Gen. Richard Natonski, commanding general of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade who presented Reilly’s Bronze Star.
Throughout the presentation Reilly continued to attribute much of his accomplishments to the Marines under his command.
“I owe everything, including my life, to my Marines,” Reilly said.